"Perhaps the dog was trained to do this," Kill says. "I can assure you, aside from being unpleasant and causing the need for dry cleaning from the slobber, it was highly disconcerting from a negotiation point of view."
Kill declines to identify the CEO who owns the slobbering schnauzer, although he says anyone who has been in the inner sanctum of the office will recognize who he's talking about.
CEOs offer the Obamas other dog advice, and it often begins with the word "never":
•"Never do a deal with someone who goes on long walks with their dog without bringing a poop bag," says Bruce Merrin, CEO of Bruce Merrin's Celebrity Speakers & Entertainment Bureau, who has booked Lassie for appearances and owns Kubby, a 175-pound Great Pyrenees.
•"Never work with someone whose dog isn't overtly happy to see them when they come home, or vice versa," says Plaxo CEO Ben Golub, owner of 11-year-old shelter mutt Gracie. "Never work for someone who makes their dog sit, beg, roll over, and play dead for 10 minutes just to get a Liv-a-Snap."
•"Never trust a person that does not hug his or her dog … too cold and not caring," says John Leibert, president of technology company Factivity and owner of a 5-year-old wheaten terrier named Scooter.
Sniffing out loyalty
The owner of crotch-sniffing Sweetie isn't the only CEO who brings the dog to work. Balthazar, an 8-year-old Shiba Inu owned by Innovative Stone CEO Karen Pearse, carries the title of director of security, but seems to have more of a human resources function. Balthazar knows all 400 employees, and Pearse says she feels "positive about people whom Balthazar approves."
"I would love to have the intuition my Rottweiler (Chester) has," says Dave Young, CEO Verlo Mattress Factory Stores. "That dog makes judgments about people that prove to be amazingly accurate over time."
CEOs often confess to making important decisions largely on instinct and gut. And 77% of the 75 CEOs in the USA TODAY survey who own dogs said they can know something about the character of others based on how they treat dogs, how dogs respond to them, and even what they name their dogs.
"If someone carries a small dog in their coat pocket and talks for him, it tells you one thing. If they have a dog box filled with hay on the rear bumper of a truck, it says another," says Bruce Clarke, president and CEO Capital Associated Industries and owner of a 12-year-old Dalmatian bought at a flea market.
Christopher Palumbo, the founder of upscale health club company Elements for Women, owns a cat because of his travel schedule, but says he trusts dog owners more. However, Laura Wellington of The Giddy Gander is a dog owner who says she'd rather strike a deal with a cat owner because it indicates they have chosen to devote more time to the business.
Many CEOs own both dogs and cats and report other pets including horses, mules, parrots, parakeets, hamsters, fish, lizards, snakes, ferrets, mice, turtles, rabbits, guinea pigs, hermit crabs and chinchillas.
"I tend to trust people a little less if they are not pet owners as they sometimes are a little more narcissistic," says Judy Odom, co-founder of Software Spectrum, and owner of 3-year-old goldendoodle Lizzie and 6-year-old golden retriever Woody.
Dogs vs. cats